This Biafra Matter

I read of demonstrations in Port Harcourt, Delta and Anambra States calling for the release of Nnamdi Kanu, the director of Radio Biafra, recently arrested by the federal government. I learnt lives were lost. If true, it is sad. Knowing the high-handedness of Nigeria's security agencies, that is inevitable.

I have always argued for a confederal system as a solution to Nigeria's current realities. This kind of federation, based on an amalgamation rooted in dishonesty, is unviable and unrealistic. People have the right to self-determination.

My reasons for not asking for dissolution are: bonds exist which this structure cannot allow; confederation will give units full freedom to form unions with entities they desire; these seemingly intractable religious, political and economic differences that lead to bloodshed will be considerably reduced.

If the far North wants Sharia and the Igbo East do not, it need not cause constitutional logjams. Perhaps a confederation will eventually heal age-old rifts between the Igbo and Yoruba. Because, like it or not, we must live with each other in the new world.

Igbo agitators for Biafra have a globally accepted right to their aspirations. But this right is not absolute. Even among the Igbo, including those like me who believe Ojukwu did the right thing by declaring Biafra in 1967, there are those who see Kanu and Co. as tricksters. Non-Igbo of the South-South have full right not to accept Biafra.

Today's Nigeria, despite President Buhari's claims to the contrary, seems to give the impression that anti-Igbo prejudices and hatreds, which were never truly dead, can openly flourish. Maybe if a post civil war era president, even if he were a Northern Nigerian, had emerged this consciousness would not be so strong. In fairness to Buhari, he belongs to that generation of Nigerian leaders who slaughtered the Igbo. He was involved in the July 1966 coup and he fought the civil war as a Nigerian soldier. There is nothing wrong with that but I doubt if he now wholeheartedly loves his former enemies; if he has the broadmindeness to consider their fears in his dispensation.

The Igbo agitators for Biafra must answer these questions:

are they ready for a free and fair referendum on the Biafra matter?

do they want a republic of Igboland or Biafra? The latter will accommodate Non-Igbo. But my sincere prayer to God is let it never see the light of day if it is a country that non-Igbo will become second-class citizens who matter only because their natural resources.

are the Igbo ready to overcome internal hatreds and prejudice? A couple of years ago, Mbaise Catholics stoutly rejected an Anambra man as Bishop because he was not their own. What are the implications of such a mindset in a Biafran state?

Recently Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh, an Igbo from Delta state, openly declared he is not an Igbo. What happens if Igbo disavow Biafra? Or do you think it is impossible? Look, no citizenship identity is permanent. A nation is an idea, after all.

The actions of the Nigerian government is unduly lionizing Kanu and his backers. They should respond by freeing Kanu; running a government that truly includes the Igbo, not just handing out token posts. They should counter Radio Biafra with robust counter-propaganda and affirmative action to the South-South and South-East. If they go on like they are now, moderates may become hardliners. Finally, Igbo-bashers and haters, the Igbo are here for real.

Henry C. Onyema is a writer and historian
Email: [email protected]

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Articles by Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema